Geoff Pender: Light to shine on MAEP formula

For five years now, State Auditor Stacey Pickering has said the emperor wears no clothes when it comes to the state’s education funding formula, but no one has really listened.

That’s changing. He’s going to be heard at a full House Appropriations hearing this week, and word is some legislation might be forthcoming. What he’s going to tell lawmakers is this: How the state spends more than $2 billion a year — through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program — is fouled up, and schools, chlidren and taxpayers are being rooked. Beyond that, he said, a team of his auditors has uncovered many problems in schools, things he said should outrage parents and lawmakers, and be changed.

The MAEP formula was created to help bring equity in funding for poor school districts, and to avoid massive lawsuits over equity that other states were facing. It’s a byzantine formula that uses many measures to determine how much state education money districts get. It’s been the source of political fighting since its inception, and the Legislature almost never “fully funds” the formula. Often, debate centers on what full funding really is.

Geoff Pender
Clarion Ledger reporter/columnist